Between Two Fires by Mark Noce

Between Two Fires by Mark Noce

Taking a vast turn away from the usual historical eras, travel to Wales in the late 6th century with this title from debut novelist, Mark Noce.  A nice mix of political intrigue and romance, all told in a new perspective. Please read on for my review of

Between Two Fires

Told in first person, I think this is the first historical that I’ve read using the present perspective, and while it takes a bit to adjust to the voice, Branwen is intriguing and thoughtful.  Lady Branwen is the last hope for the solidity of the Wales she knows in this story set in the medieval years of 590. While at first I found her a bit shallow and indecisive, she did manage to grow and develop a sense of the major players in the game for power and control, showing growth. There was a sense of her heartfelt obligation to her people, and the desire to keep the uniqueness of her Welsh identity.

What didn’t work quite as well for me was the romance portion of the story. Of course, the story was set to portray her husband as all things horrid and hateful, and the knight that caught her eye was all things glorious, but the connection didn’t work for me as I had hoped… and really – it could have disappeared as a plot point altogether without much effect for me.  Now, there are players and plots in great numbers, easily explained by the impending invasion from the Saxons, and the struggles to keep a toehold in the game, in power. Alliances, as fueled by shifting loyalties or better opportunities require readers to pay attention are frequent, and do tend to feel confusing at first.  When you add in the plot against Branwen and the list of reasons why she would have become a leading target, the twists and turns are grand.

Resolutions that often felt convenient and a touch coincidental, the uniqueness of voice, descriptive world, and the solid storytelling kept me engaged and intrigued, although this was not a read in one sitting book, I did look forward to coming back to the story after a break.

Between Two Fires by Mark Noce

Title: Between Two Fires
Author: Mark Noce
Genre: Historic Romance with Mystery Elements, Historical Fiction, Medieval, Wales
Published by: St. Martin's Press, Thomas Dunne Books
ISBN: 125007262X
Published on: 23 August, 2016
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 336
Rated: four-stars
Heat: One FlameHalf a Flame

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Saxon barbarians threaten to destroy medieval Wales. Lady Branwen becomes Wales' last hope to unite their divided kingdoms when her father betroths her to a powerful Welsh warlord, the Hammer King. But the fledgling alliance is fraught with enemies from within and without as Branwen becomes the target of assassination attempts and courtly intrigue. A young woman in a world of fierce warriors, she seeks to assert her own authority and preserve Wales against the barbarians. But when she falls for a young hedge knight named Artagan, her world threatens to tear itself apart.

Caught between her duty to her people and her love of a man she cannot have, Branwen must choose whether to preserve her royal marriage or to follow her heart. Somehow she must save her people and remain true to herself, before Saxon invaders and a mysterious traitor try to destroy her.

Reminiscent of classics like The Mists of Avalon and A Game of Thrones, and newer popular titles like Hild, Branwen's story combines elements of mystery and romance with Noce's gift for storytelling.

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.


About Mark Noce

MARK NOCE writes historical fiction with a passion. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, he has been an avid traveler and backpacker. He earned his BA and MA from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where he also met his beautiful wife. By day, he works as a Technical Writer, having spent much of his career at places like Google and Facebook. He also writes short fiction online. When not reading or writing, he's probably listening to U2, sailing his dad's boat, or gardening with his family. He is the author of Between Two Fires.